Octavia Sexton

Storyteller

Octavia Sexton

Recipient Information

Location

Orlando (Rockcastle County), Kentucky

Medium

Storytelling

Year of Award

2020

Grant or Fellowship

Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowship

Grant Amount

$9,000

Artist Biography

Rockcastle County’s Octavia Sexton grew up telling stories. At the one-room schoolhouse she attended, the children would gather during recess and tell each other stories. As she explains, “Growing up, the oral tradition was a part of everyday life. Kinfolks, neighbors, and friends told stories. Many of them had little or no formal education, but they knew what was, is, and what will be through story. Stories were the most precious thing they had, and they gave them to the young and old and those in between.” She continues to gift these stories to those who listen to her. She has worked extensively in her community and state to create common ground and enrich lives through storytelling. She has performed in schools, detention centers, professional development academies for artists and educators, addiction recovery programs, and library and community programs for several decades. She also is dedicated to mentoring up-and-coming storytellers “to find their own voice.” She has been described as strong and compassionate, deeply committed to social justice and improving those with whom she associates.

Sexton is unable to trace her education in storytelling back to any one person, but she inherited a treasure trove of stories from her grandma and grandpa, both master storytellers. Many of those stories were passed down to them from the Scotch-Irish settlers that populated the Appalachian region and brought their stories with them. With the fellowship, she will be able to explore her Scotch-Irish roots by traveling to Ireland to delve into the collections at the National Folklore Collection house at University College in Dublin. She hopes to better understand the stories she knows and learn new stories in the process.